Featured Voice: Nathan Rosin on his Path to Recovery from Testicular Cancer

On January 10th, 2019 – just 11 days before my 23rd birthday – I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Nathan Rosin (left) pictured with his oncologist, Dr. Emerson Lim, at the 2019 Velocity ride
Nathan Rosin (left) pictured with his oncologist, Dr. Emerson Lim, at the 2019 Velocity ride.

I had started feeling intense stomach discomfort a few months earlier, so I set up an appointment with a gastroenterologist, who examined me and ordered abdomen scans that all came back clear. However, the doctor advised that I make an appointment with a lung specialist, as he had observed the shadow of some nodules on my lungs. He said that lung nodules are relatively common, oftentimes coming about from a bad cold or infection, so there was no immediate need to be worried. Nevertheless, I scheduled a follow-up consult with a pulmonologist, which led to more scans, and eventually a biopsy. Then, I received a call one afternoon that January, as I sat at home studying for a financial services licensing exam I was supposed to be taking the next day.

It is difficult to describe exactly what I felt when I heard the words “testicular cancer” from my lung doctor, who made the effort to deliver the news to me via phone from his home, where he was on paternity leave having just welcomed a days-old newborn child. I’m not sure one can ever be fully prepared to hear a cancer diagnosis – let alone when you’ve only just graduated from college and started life in the “real world.” And to hear that there was testicular cancer in my lungs of all places – it just didn’t add up. I felt a mix of disbelief and fear, but also an immediate conviction to learn more and figure it out.

Following an afternoon of anguish and tears and phone calls with loved ones, I did my best to push past my fear and turn it into something more positive: curiosity and resolve. I was determined to learn all there was to know about my condition so I could orient myself towards the path to recovery. The following afternoon, my parents and sister (who had arrived in from Boston); my cousin (a pediatric surgeon who had traveled from Pennsylvania); my girlfriend (now fiancée!), and I went to see Dr. Emerson Lim and Dr. James McKiernan at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

We were all sitting in the waiting room on the 9th floor of the Herbert Irving Pavilion (HIP) when Dr. McKiernan and Dr. Lim emerged from the hallway with encouraging smiles and wide arms. After a two-plus hour consult on a Friday afternoon, I walked out of the hospital with a calm and confident smile on my face. Only Dr. McKiernan and Dr. Lim could work their magic like they did, putting this cancer patient and his family completely at ease, keeping us positive and comfortable with warmth and laughter. We left their offices incredibly well-informed and confident that I would beat this.

Nathan Rosin raises his arms in celebration after completing the Velocity ride
Nathan participated in the Velocity ride as a way to say "thank you" to his care team and raise money and awareness for those still fighting cancer.

We got a second opinion from another incredible doctor elsewhere, but decided to proceed with treatment at Columbia because every time we set foot there, we felt immediately at home. While the following months of treatment were difficult, and at times, painful, the nurses at the 14th-floor infusion center and the frequent check-ins with doctors helped me get through. We joked about the slow elevators in HIP and the confusing mazes to get from one building to another at the medical center. Nurse Jen sang me soothing lullabies during my treatments when they were especially hard. I remember the endless stream of patients I saw struggling were always met with an equally endless supply of unconditional love and care.

I’m lucky to have had a good prognosis and an incredible team of friends, family, and medical professionals by my side, whose endless love and support carried me through even the hardest days. On July 23rd I emerged from my follow-up appointments in smiles and tears with encouraging scans and a positive outlook. While we’re still regularly monitoring my status, I’m back to living the way I love to – out and about, full of energy, and with a newfound, infinite appreciation for the research and people that saved my life.

While I felt too weak to do much more than eat and sleep during my treatment, I’m now strong enough to say thank you to the doctors, nurses, and other staff at CUIMC in a way I had wanted to for a long time – by cycling in last year’s Velocity Ride to raise money and awareness for those still fighting cancer. I’ve found the best way to deal with what I went through has been to turn it into something positive, sharing  my story to inspire people to support others like me who are still struggling, and the incredible institution that takes care of us. For those who are still fighting, I would say this – a combination of confidence in yourself and love from those around you can work magical medical wonders, just as much as any chemotherapy or surgery can.

-Nathan Rosin

HICCC Featured Voices gives our patients, members, and supporters an opportunity to share their personal stories—living with cancer, surviving cancer, researching cancer, and aiming to end cancer. If you have a story to share and want to be included as a featured voice, please email the HICCC Communications team at cucancercomms@cumc.columbia.edu.